Monday, October 29, 2012

Descriptive Emotion From Deep in the Brain

Writers paint words across the page not only to describe a physical setting but to elicit emotion. A reader might visualize people gathered around a coffin but what words will get him or her to feel emotions such as grief or love toward the deceased? 'Tears' are a concrete detail that sinks into the middle layer of the brain. Intellectually the reader knows the character is showing grief but a writer wants the reader to experience that grief as well. Rich, sensory detail goes deeper to achieve that desirable emotional connection in a fully engaged reader.

In her book  Word Paining, Rebecca McClanahan talks about the three-layered brain. Readers need to go beyond the neocortex that categorizes information and into the mesocortex which allows them to feel it or they will not care about the characters or what is happening. Grief or love is too big a topic. Break it down, shrink it with small details that authentically describe--not label or explain--through the use of active verbs with concrete and sensory detail. This takes practice. Great description is worth all the revision it takes.

Don't get bogged down in the mists of abstract emotions. Use the senses and be clear with concrete images.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review - Toby Gold

Toby Gold and the Secret Fortune will delight middle grade readers and teach them something of financial literacy at the same time. It's a win-win situation from Fiscal Press.
What I thought: The first chapter could have been a prologue but I'm glad it wasn't. It started out with exciting action that left me suspecting a few things would come up again. The main character is a likeable seventh grade boy that many MG readers can relate to. Toby is smart at math but average at most other things, wants to do what is right, but not afraid to have fun with a well-deserved prank. He can tough out his problems and rely on himself or his two close friends as needed. His unusual gifts make him interesting and slightly enviable. Toby's hard life as a foster child is mentioned in the right amount and gives him the proper detachment from his home-life to fit the story. I liked the use of FD10 (foster dad number 10) to portray this.
  Events lead Toby to investigate a mystery in which financial terms are employed in easy to swallow doses. Great stuff with a touch of magic. Readers love it when there's a code for deciphering, but I couldn't crack it. A couple things could have been improved upon, but mostly for older readers.  Once or twice the omniscient voice took me out of the story to consider what felt like a change in point of view but maybe was just my take on it.  Haven't read that POV in a while. There were a few silly things that the reader just has to go with, such as a kid being given keys to an employer's house or office. These can be overlooked. I found touches of humor for adult readers too, like a reference to one foster parent liking Hall & Oats. The book resolves nicely with Toby attempting to get himself out of a pickle but is aided by the two friends in a familiar way. He sticks to his goals, even when it could jeopardize the relationships that mean most. The friend we care about most will benefit from Toby's decision. All ends are wrapped up but not perfectly neat and tidy. Realistically satisfying. I hope there are more adventures ahead for Toby Gold.

 View craig headshot.jpg in slide show About the Author:

  In 2009, while volunteering in public school classrooms in West Lafayette Indiana, author Craig Everett recognized that traditional methods of teaching personal finance to kids were not having the desired results nationally. Despite significant efforts to add finance topics to school curricula, financial literacy test scores have not markedly improved in many areas of the country. There had to be a better way. Thus was born the idea of incorporating financial literacy concepts into a fantasy novel that both middle-grade and high school youth would enjoy reading. TOBY GOLD AND THE SECRET FORTUNE is a fun and entertaining  reading experience as well as one more useful tool in the struggle to improve youth financial literacy.

  Craig R. Everett was born and raised in Maine, spending his childhood summers digging along the shores of Bar Harbor for buried pirate treasure.  Fortunately, he was able to remain blissfully unaware that pirates seldom, if ever, ventured that far north.  He received his B.A. in Economics from Tufts University, an MBA from George Mason University, and a Ph.D. in Finance from Purdue University.
  Dr. Everett is currently a finance professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where he teaches corporate and entrepreneurial finance. Dr. Everett also volunteers in public schools teaching financial literacy principles. 
  Visit Craig at: He has an Amazon link there for purchases. ISBN: 978-1-936-21495-2

Monday, October 15, 2012

Windows of Nano Inspiration

Planning to participate in Nano? October is the time to get inspired to write a novel in a month by planning your plot before November. Do you have a story that inspires you? Tell it. I've never done this before and alas, the timing is not right again this year. Whether or not it's for you  just now, you owe it to yourself as a writer to learn what I just learned. Check out the national site here. Learn what you never knew, find your regional group, and more.

I learned that there is all kinds of support during nano and that if you need to participate during another time, you can do so through camp nano. You don't have to wait until November rolls around. If your window of opportunity for inspiration is coming a month or two from now, you don't have to wait a year. I think I'm going to take advantage of that the next time I'm ready to start a new novel.

How about you--are you participating in Nano or have you done so before? Leave us your enthusiasm or best tip. And good luck!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Publish or Die Trying?

Hi Friends. I'm pondering a question and I hope you'll give me your thoughts on it. You know how some school classes are graded on a bell curve or some other system that makes certain a percentage of students will get 'A's, 'B's, etc.? The bottom students will fail, the top rise. Those in the middle are stuck.
Does this apply to getting published?

I've heard published authors say to keep at it and eventually your efforts will be rewarded. It's not a matter of if, but when. You will become published. It kind of makes sense. The more you practice and learn, the better you get. Too bad it's not like an absolute scale where if you meet the standards--do such and such--you get an 'A'. You win. The problem is that getting an agent or publishing relies on winning over the opinions of skilled others and nailing market needs at the right time. Too many factors without absoluteness.
Should all of this concern writers? Will all our efforts be in vain?

No. Not for me anyway. Not when I'm doing what I love. And I'm seeing progress. Hope is what we have to hold on to. There are milestones along the way and success could be just around the corner. Besides, there are indie and other publishing options if we need a plan B.
What do you think?

On a similar note, a friend of mine from my former critique group just saw his first book published. I recall one point in his earlier frustration where we told him that time would pass whether or not he completed his project so he may as well do what the editors wanted. Now he can celebrate. I want to give a shout out to Brock Cheney and his playful nonfiction about Mormon pioneer food-ways in Plain but Wholesome.
Photo: Woot WOOT! Just got a call from Radio West on KUER 90.1 FM. Listen in Monday at 11a.m. for a feature on PLAIN BUT WHOLESOME!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tension Levels for Two (or One)

Ever read a book where the main character is really two main characters? Something like a split personality. This creates interesting opportunities for tension throughout the story rather than smaller instances where one character vacillates between choices or comes into conflict with other characters. I’m listening to an audio book of Stephenie Meyer, the host. Here a ‘soul’ has taken over a ‘body’, so one character becomes two. I’m a quarter way through it and find the tension between the two interesting and a good study in employing different levels of tension within the same character.

A friend of mine recently posted about the tension between two characters and I’m going to use Canda Mortensen’s list.
  • Tension created by conflicting character goals.
  • Inward thoughts are opposite of the outward actions and words toward another character.
  • The outcome is unknown because the characters are equally passionate about their position.
  • The interactions changes one of their lives.
  • Leave the scene with the definite feeling that it’s not over when it’s over.

In the host, the‘soul’ and the ‘body’ definitely possess conflicting goals, one’s inward thoughts are opposite of the other’s outward actions, they are equally passionate most of the time, and there is cause to wonder if one will change her life because of the other. The scene endings are also great. That covers the above ways of creating tension and we’re only talking about one/two characters. Anyway, I’m recognizing ways to add tension, to utilize in my own writing, and multiple levels at once have captured my attention. Good books help good writing.

Keep it tense with small spaces of rest or a breather between and you’ll keep readers turning those pages!